Homeschooling in Ghana: Our bonafide experience

Hubert Addi Teaching1 File photo

Tue, 7 Dec 2021 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

“Exams do not define us, exams cannot define you,” was one of the maxims I created to intersperse my whiteboard lessons as I took the whole of 2021 off blogging to homeschool my two teenage sons.

We had all the time to complete the various WASSCE and BECE syllabi, and even go “above sylla” into American College Board, the O- and A-Levels, Indian curricular, and university level courses.

We created breaktime and holidays, but we worked harder than at regular school; we started at 6am and closed at 10pm daily.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana forced us to begin this exercise when in early March 2020, schools were closed by a Presidential Executive Order.

The die was cast; it was now a defining moment to finally take up the challenge with respect to our concerns about formal schooling and critical thinking.

We had almost all the checklist items that have prompted many people into opting for homeschooling: peculiar health needs, lack of confidence in the school system, distance to school and value for money.

The results of the respective exams – the BECE and WASSCE – will not matter much because the learners have already imbibed what they are supposed to know, and there is evidence to prove it.

What is more, it was the learners that defined the learning, aided by myself as a learning facilitator.

Yes, there were tonnes of student-centered learning, but there was also a lot of teaching, instruction and mentorship using prescribed textbooks, and apps such as Duolingo, Aleks, Canvas, Coursera, Pearson Learning, edX, and a host of others, for independent assessment.

In addition, we registered with some schools in Accra for mock exams.

The learners did mark their own scripts, and boy didn’t we have fun filling the knowledge gaps?

There were plenty of “So is it true that…..” questions we had to address, using facts, evidence and reason.

For a working-from-home-dad, a career path I had been experimenting with since 2011 as a response to childcare issues, the rewards have been fantastic.

One problem our concerned family of detractors had was whether I could teach these final year BECE (14-year-old) and WASSCE (17-year-old) candidates all the required West African Examinations Council (WAEC) subjects.

Fortunately the answer is yes.

But the detractors miss the point entirely; I am only a Learning Facilitator – not a Teacher – and we used adaptive learning techniques, applying the Six Sigma and Kaizen principles to facilitate regular incremental improvements.

And with COVID-19 raging in a nation with a directionless public health system, an abundance of caution by staying away from formal schooling was in order.

So what these family stakeholders did not know is that as my mentor will quip appropriately, “There is method to my madness”.

Thus there were specific big gains for all three of us, namely the two learners and myself.

For example, the BECE candidate studied the same Science and Math topics taught at the WASSCE and O-Level, hence he has already laid an important foundation for himself.

We realised that the Math syllabus has invariably the same content except that calculators are not allowed at the BECE.

The WASSCE candidate learnt French entirely on his own and is now literate in French.

Now “you can hear French” we teased the WASSCE candidate during our lessons, translating the joke from the local Fante dialect.

His weakness in Mathematics unfortunately could not be remedied, despite the concentrated effort.

But does this not explain the current thinking in pedagogy, namely, that the learner chooses what they are interested in; that we cannot teach anybody much if they are not ready to learn?

Fancy someone who has been taught Math all his life, whose father can teach Math, yet will say “I hate Math”, but embrace French, a second international language, at secondary school and learn it on his own!

For me, who has always been a teacher at heart, and formally taught at Primary Three (eight year olds), Junior High School (11-14 year-olds) and the diploma and degree levels, this was my first time teaching at the secondary school level (K-10 to K-12).

For the two learners and myself, losing the last two months of final preparation for their respective exams in November and December due to aggravating family issues including believe or not, false imprisonment; we were undeterred, for afterall, we had already long completed the syllabi.

Indeed “last days are dangerous” as our “what can go wrong” simulation proved”; it was a “September, October, November to remember”.

Besides as Albert Einstein indicated, “education is what remains after you have forgotten what you were taught in school”.

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah